PLAYSHAKESPEARE: CSF’s Taming is Perfect Opening for 60th Season
(Above: David Derringer, Rachel Turner, and Christopher Joel Onken in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s 2017 production of The Taming of the Shrew. Photo by Jennifer Koskinen.)
No review of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew would be complete without the obligatory mention of how its inherent misogyny makes it incredibly distasteful to modern audiences, second only perhaps to The Merchant of Venice. Thousands of productions have played with setting and character to try to find some way to make the play less cringe-worthy, with limited success.
The Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s 60th season opener is one of those successes.
Although the idea of setting Taming in post-WWII New York’s Little Italy, with Kate as a returning WASP (Women’s Airforce Service Pilot), sounds intriguing, the execution has to be seen to understand just how perfect it is. Because director Christopher DuVal manages to turn one of Shakespeare’s most famous (and infamous) comedies into one of the twentieth century’s classic film genres: the screwball comedy.
The set kicks the show off before it begins with a marquee reading “Little Italy Welcomes You” above two old brownstones on a New York City side street. A sign cleverly places them at the totally real intersection of Padua Way, Lombardy St., Florence St., and Pisa Ave. At the end of the pre-show, a radio announces the end of the war, prompting a dance celebration. (Fortunately, this means that the incongruous and confusing Christopher Sly frame story is left on the cutting room floor.)
The show begins, as all Shakespeare and screwball comedies do, with an introduction to the obstacles to a happy ending: three different suitors wish to marry the beautiful Bianca (Rachel Turner). Unfortunately for everyone, her father, Baptista (Robert Sicular), refuses to marry her off until her older sister Kate (Shelly Gaza) finds a husband. This seems unlikely to happen, since Kate refuses to give up her independence in order to submit to a husband. So the suitors conspire to find a man to marry her who’s only interested in money.